The management of Pikes Peak is a complicated affair. Here’s a quick summary.
- The U.S. Forest Service has over-arching responsibility of the mountain, as it is part of the Pike National Forest.
- Through a special use permit issued by the Forest Service, the City of Colorado is responsible for administering and managing the Pikes Peak Highway and the concessions.
- The concessions on Pikes Peak are outsourced by the City of Colorado Springs to Aramark.
- The Pikes Peak Cog Rail (now owned by the Broadmoor Hotel), has a permanent lease to the right-of-way for the Cog Railway tracks from Manitou to the Summit. This permanent lease was granted after Spencer Penrose deeded the entire summit of Pikes Peak to the U.S. Forest Service.
- The U.S. Army owns the High Altitude Research Laboratory on the Summit.
- Colorado Springs Utilities also has an interest, as their radio transmission equipement is located on the Summit.
In the late 1800s, public awareness of our nation’s natural beauty was gaining momentum. As a result, the conservation movement was born. Many people now saw the western lands not only as beautiful and expansive, but also as treasures to protect.
In 1864, the U.S. Federal government granted the Yosemite Valley to California for preservation as a state park. It then followed with protecting Yellowstone County 1872. In the 1890s and 1900s, the government added Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Glacier to the list.
At about this same time, all land grants and homesteading on Pikes Peak were suspended in preparation of creating yet another national park. By passing The Forest Reserve Act of 1891, the Pikes Peak Timber Reserve west of Colorado Springs was created. This massive area included almost the entire mountain. Soon after, additional land was added to the reserve to protect the forests along the South Platte River and the Plum Run. In 1905, under the newly created U.S. Forest Service, these areas were combined and then renamed as the Pike National Forest. However, the mountain has never been designated as a national park.
Pikes Peak is not a national park, though it was given consideration.
In 1915, the U.S. Forest Service allowed Spencer Penrose to complete the road to the summit. However, when the agreement ended 20 years later, the road responsibility returned to the federal government and the $2 toll was lifted. People could drive up the mountain free of charge. Unfortunately, without the maintenance afforded by the toll, the road surface deteriorated greatly. In 1948 the U.S. Forest Service issued a special-use permit to the City of Colorado Springs, which then became responsible for maintaining the road to the top. The City of Colorado Springs continues to maintain the road to this day.
In 1963, the Summit of Pikes Peak (specifically the land higher than 14,000 feet in elevation) was declared a National Historic Landmark.